Study: Methadone Investment Repaid Many Times Over

Every dollar spent on methadone treatment yields $38 in related economic benefits, according to a study from RTI International.

Researchers looked at the lifetime costs and benefits of methadone maintenance for heroin users -- a departure from other studies, which typically focus on the benefits of a single treatment episode. The research model tracked methadone patients from age 18 to 60 and included such variables as heroin use, treatment for heroin use, criminal behavior, employment, and healthcare utilization.

"Drug abuse is a chronic, recurring condition that leads many drug users to enter treatment throughout their lifetime," said lead researcher Gary Zarkin, Ph.D. "Our goal was to develop a lifetime simulation model that represents a realistic view of the recurring episodes of drug use and treatment so that we could obtain a more accurate picture of the social and economic consequences of heroin use."

"Lifetime models give a much more accurate picture of both the costs and benefits of treating chronic conditions," Zarkin added. "Our results further strengthen the case for the value of drug-abuse treatment."

The study appears in the November 2005 issue of the journal Health Economics.

Zarkin G. A., Dunlap L. J., Hicks K. A., and Mamo D. (2005) Benefits and costs of methadone treatment: results from a lifetime simulation model. Health Economics, 14(11): 1133-1150.